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Dan Crenshaw Is Desperate For You to Call Him a Maverick

Here is a man who is desperately searching for a lane.

screenshot / vimeo "Texas Reloaded"

The first week in January is a wonderful opportunity for to ask those big questions which define the year ahead; questions like “should I buy this rowing machine?” and “will the Twins win the world series in four, or stretch it out to the full seven games?” and perhaps most importantly: what’s Dan Crenshaw deal, exactly?” While those first two questions are TBD for now, I think the Crenshaw conundrum is more immediately answerable.

First, a little context. Last month, during a speech at a Texas conservative conference, Crenshaw made the laughably self-evident observation that a number of his unnamed — but hardly anonymous — fellow Republican shitheels are nothing more than “performance artists” and “grifters” who “know how to say slogans real well” but not much else. And who do you suppose was dumb and/or egotistical enough to to take Crenshaw’s incredibly obvious bait? Just days later, Marjorie Taylor Greene came in off the top turnbuckle to accuse Crenshaw of being a fake conservative and “hurting our brand” because he “(not so secretly) hates Trump.” This kicked off an inane back and forth about who’s an “idiot” or a “Democrat” and also something about porn. The truth is that it’s all very stupid and you don’t need to actually worry about any of it.

What’s noteworthy though — in a “there are so many different flavors of shit in the world, so what flavor of shit is this?” sort of way — is the fact that it’s Crenshaw, of all people, picking this particular fight with Greene. After all, this is someone comfortable using “performance artists” as a pejorative against members of his own party, while at the same time doing… whatever the fuck this is:

So what is Crenshaw’s deal? In part, it seems like he’s made the calculation that he can somehow straddle the GOPs two predominant lanes. To the party’s bigoted, Trumpian “we want racist bombast” majority, he can claim unimpeachable fidelity to Herr leader’s agenda (literally, he voted twice against impeaching Trump”) and total comfort with the murky underbelly of racist Facebook groups. And to the less overtly psychotic minority of Republicans — you know, the “freedom” and “personal responsibility” secret fascists — Crenshaw seems to hope that by calling out Greene and her ilk, he’ll be granted the most cherished and sought-after title in mainstream American politics: that of “maverick conservative,” and collect plaudits from the West Wing bumper sticker crowd.

That the distinction Crenshaw is trying desperately to draw between himself and the Greenes, Boeberts, and Cawthorns of the world is more a matter of optics than actual substance is almost beside the point. Simply by raising the issue in the first place, and acting marginally less insane, Crenshaw can position himself as the sort of responsible Republican that doesn’t exist. And it’s already started to work, with glowing profiles (“Rep. Dan Crenshaw, in short, is a GOP anomaly.”) and waves of positive headlines from this latest spat, the mainstreaming of a man who once presided over a virulently racist Facebook cesspool is well underway.

Crenshaw is a lot of things, but he’s not dumb. He’s betting he can speak out of both sides of his mouth long enough to become a player in the GOP, no matter which faction ends up taking over the party in the coming years. The depressing truth is: he’s probably right.